Data watchdogs issue joint data scraping guidance for social media platforms
Twelve data protection and privacy authorities from around the world have published a joint statement calling for social media companies to better protect users from illegal data scraping.
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), alongside Canada’s, Australia’s, Hong Kong’s, and eight other countries equivalents, have together urged Big Tech platforms to step up and protect people’s data – or potentially face legal action.
Data scraping involves extracting large amounts of data from the web. However, scraping from social media sites such as Facebook and X (Twitter) creates privacy risks and potential harm, say the data watchdogs.
Mass data scraping incidents that harvest personal information can constitute reportable data breaches in many jurisdictions.
Last year, the ICO fined US facial recognition firm Clearview AI £7.5 million for collecting hoards of images of people from the sites without their knowledge.
In the statement the organisation said that this type of data scraping could contribute to risks such as identity fraud, targeted cyberattacks, monitoring, profiling and surveillance of individuals.
They added that the practice was a concern also because scraped personal information can be sold to malicious actors, or private analysis and intelligence gathering.
“Individuals and companies that scrape such personal information are therefore responsible for ensuring that they comply with these and other applicable laws,” the statement read.
“However, social media companies and the operators of other websites that host publicly accessible personal information also have data protection obligations with respect to third-party scraping from their sites,” it adds.
In July of this year, Elon Musk posted to his social platform X (Twitter) that the platform has restricted the amount of posts a user can read in a day in order to address “extreme levels of data scraping and system manipulation”.
Automation of public web data for commercial use has nonetheless become a thriving business for many in the fields of ecommerce, finance, marketing and security.
There are also a number of businesses that claim to use information gleaned from social media and other sources for good causes and health and wellbeing projects.
Among them is Israel’s Bright Data which collects huge tranches of online data, from sources such as social media, websites, and other apps to advance social change.
There’s also Advanced Symbiotics’ smart research ‘tech for good’ tool Ask Polly which claims to use data scraping methods for population heath projects.
Earlier this year Talking Medicines also released an AI platform Patient MetRx, which scrapes data from millions of online social media conversations to find out what patients are saying about drugs they’ve taken.
To help tackle illegal data scraping, however, data privacy authorities advise users read the information provided by the social platforms they use on how much of their information is shared and understand and manage their privacy settings to better protect what they post.
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